Evolution of the Coin Operated Kiddie Ride


Kiddie amusement rides have a long history dating back to the first half of the 20th century. These rides are of a stand alone type and designed specifically for young children (nursery and primary age), offering them a fun and exciting experience in amusement parks, arcades, and other entertainment venues.

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The concept of kiddie rides can be traced back to the early 20th century. Mechanical rides, such as miniature carousels and simple horse rides, were introduced to cater for young children at funfairs and such like. These early rides were often manually operated.

Kiddie rides at the funfair gained significant popularity in the mid-20th century. With advancements in technology, rides became more elaborate, incorporating colourful designs and themes. Popular rides included the mini ferris wheels, bumper cars, miniature trains, and spinning teacups.

From the 1950s onwards, coin-operated kiddie rides became increasingly popular. These rides allowed children to experience a short ride experience in a stand alone machine by inserting a coin (out of mum or dad’s pocket!) The rides were usually simple and featured popular characters, such as cartoon animals or superheroes.

By the 1970s kiddie rides had evolved and diversified. Manufacturers began incorporating more sophisticated mechanics, sound effects, and interactive elements to enhance the experience. The rides were designed to feature popular characters from films, books and TV programmes, attracting young riders.

In recent years, advancements in technology have transformed kiddie rides further. Digital screens, motion simulation, and interactive features have become common in modern kiddie rides. Additionally, the integration of virtual reality (VR) technology has provided an immersive and thrilling experience for young riders.

Thomas Tank a popular kiddie ride made by Jolly Roger

Today, kiddie amusement rides continue to be an integral part of amusement arcades and parks along with family entertainment centres all over the world. The rides provide a safe and enjoyable experience for young children, allowing them to engage in imaginative play and create lasting memories.

Nearby Skegness has always had a strong connection with coin operated kiddie rides as RG Mitchell Children's Rides Ltd was based there. It was founded by Robin Guthrie Mitchell in 1959 as a family business and traded successfully. It produced rides originally in wood, such as Rocky 1 in 1959, and then later Jerry the Giraffe, Space Scout and Jumbo all in the early 1960s.  RG Mitchell was bought out by Photo-Me PLC in 2005, then trading as Jolly Roger Amusement Rides Ltd. Up until that time they had produced over 70 titles in coin operated kiddie rides.

Jolly Roger Amusement Rides still operate today with one of their sites being located in Skegness.

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